This year was going to be the year—the year we would have the perfect Christmas! I know things aren’t ever really perfect, but this year I was going to be on top of it. We’d make it through our daily advent reading as a family ALL month. We’d host a Christmas cookie decorating party for the kids in our cul-de-sac. We’d take a family trip to the Christmas tree farm to pick out the perfect tree. I’d take my girls to see the Nutcracker ballet for the first time. We’d shop for our Angel Tree child, and on and on I could go. Except that it’s December 16 and we’ve done none of those things.
I feel like December punched me in the face when I woke up on the first, and it hasn’t let up since. I couldn’t find the Jesse Tree ornaments we made last year (still haven’t found them) so we never started it. We didn’t make it to the cute little Christmas tree farm, so a week into December I asked my husband to just grab one at the grocery store on the way home from work. The Christmas cookie decorating party didn’t happen, but the girls and I did manage to decorate some store bought sugar cookies. We watched the Nutcracker on Youtube. I missed the deadline to sponsor an Angel Tree child through our local YMCA. And though I LOVE giving and getting Christmas cards, we simply posted a picture to Facebook this year. More than a handful of my favorite ornaments have been broken already this month. Several were broken by my almost three-year-old and several more broke when the entire freshly decorated tree toppled over in the middle of our living room floor—think shattered ornaments and strings of lights sitting in the water from our tree stand. By the time I got my husband in there to check out the damage we realized our smoker (that we never should have used on our WOODEN back porch in the first place…we know, we know…) was burning a hole in the floor of the porch at the exact same moment that we were staring at our mess of a tree. A few days later our three-month-old was diagnosed with RSV, and though I’ve known I had a post date coming up this week for a long while, I am writing this just a few hours before it’s set to be posted. (I’m all about full disclosure at this point.)
The other day, after realizing we were totally failing at this whole Christian Christmas thing, I randomly blurted out to my husband, “We have to buy a chicken!” I was feeling badly about missing the Angel Tree deadline so I figured we could at least buy a chicken for a family in need through Compassion International or something!
Sometimes LIFE just happens, doesn’t it? And life can get in the way of our perfect Christmas, can’t it?
I’ve been reading Ann Voskamp’s book, The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas (you know, binge reading randomly rather than savoring it slowly a day at a time, but whatever…) and today as I was feeling a bit dejected about my failure in creating the perfect Christmas for my family this year, these words seemed to stand up off of the page:
“Hurry always empties a soul…God doesn’t want to number your failures or count your accomplishments as much as He wants you to have an encounter with Him. The only ladder over you is Love—and Love came down.”
And then I took a deep breath, held it in for a minute, and let it out slowly. Breathing in grace, breathing out all of my own expectations. Letting my soul rest, for a moment, in the greatest of Loves. And then my perfect moment was interrupted by one child hitting the other and tears over a McDonald’s toy that was now the greatest toy of all time and the source of all envy in our home somehow. (Yes, I did purchase two McDonald’s Happy Meals this week. No, I’m not proud of it.)
But it was okay. I could deal with the drama. It was time for my soul to rest, even if life around me seemed chaotic.
So even though this hasn’t been the “perfect Christmas” I had planned, I’m choosing to rest in the fact that I am deeply loved in spite of it all. I’m going to let myself slow down. I’m going to seize the special moments with my family as they come. I’m going to set aside my ideas of perfection and embrace the messy life right in front of me. I’m going to worship my Savior as I nurse my baby to sleep. (We ladies are good at multi-tasking, you know.) I’m cutting myself some slack, enjoying my family, and thanking Jesus that January is just as good of a month as December to read Bible stories to my kids. We don’t have to stop celebrating His coming to us as a baby on January 1. We can weave it into our real life all year long, thanking Him for grace to fill the gaps along the way.
Jesus, help us to resist the hurry, forget perfection, and savor the moments this Christmas. And that ladder we try to climb to you, thank You for climbing down it instead. You came to give us rest. Help us not to miss it.
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